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August 01, 1999 12:00 AM

Arnold's Park Saved

Arnold's Park dodged the wrecking ball. Plans to tear down the century old amusement park and put up condos have been demolished on deadline day. Park supporters had 6 weeks to raise 5 and a half million dollars. With hours to go on this the August first deadline, millions more than organizers needed rolled in. Sioux Falls Developer Don Dunham had plans to bulldoze the oldest amusement park west of the Mississippi, and put up condominiums and a hotel. But the park has a "rich" history, making memories for thousands of people, people who came through in the crunch. "This project is a go!" Hundreds of supporters cheer, and some cry. The emotional roller coaster ride is over. The park their parents and grandparents strolled through will be here for the generation just now learning to walk. "I was here when the old funhouse was here. Sad to hear that was gone, but it's awesome that my own child will be here to come experience the park for years to come," says Jill DeRuiter a life long visitor. The park's long tradition will go on because of donations that poured in from all 50 states. In 6 weeks, the Maritime Museum Board, the group responsible for running the park raised the 5. 5 million to save the park and then some. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack announced the state would give 1 million dollars. When the last total was taken, fundraisers took in 2 million more than they needed. The maritime museum board has big plans for the waves of money that came crashing in. They're going to restore this public beach and eventually put a band shell where the roof garden once stood. "It's so exciting. It's just so much fun. It means that this park and this land is now going to be everybody's, that we all get to share, we all get to use it, and we all get to enjoy it," says Vicki Robinson, a life long visitor. In addition to the bandshell and beach, the museum board is working on a picnic area east of the amusement park. It will be built in honor of the thousands of people who donated money. One million dollars came from the newly created Community Attraction fund, and 250,000 dollars came from the Department of Natural Resources.

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